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Technology law column by Michael Geist

Government Keeps ACTA Consultation Results Under Wraps

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Earlier this year, many Canadians were taken aback by reports of a secret trade agreement that conjured up images of iPod-searching border guards and tough new penalties for every day activities.  The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, currently being negotiated by Canada, the United States, Japan, the European Union, and a handful other countries, generated sufficient public concern such that then-Industry Minister Jim Prentice specifically denied any links between the treaty and proposed new legislation.

While the ACTA debate has largely disappeared from the public radar screen, the negotiations continue. Over the summer, I reported about attempts to establish a private consultation committee composed of industry groups that excluded public interest organizations.  

The status of the consultation committee remains unknown, but newly obtained documents under the Access to Information Act provide additional insights into the secretive nature of the negotiations as well as the results of a limited public consultation conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs in the spring.

Canadian Podcasting Royalty Down But Not Out

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In the annals of Canadian copyright royalty fights, few can match Tariff 22 for pure stamina and longevity.  First introduced in 1995 by SOCAN, thirteen years later the proposal is still the source of much disagreement.  Indeed, years after the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an attempt to implement a tariff on Internet service providers for the music transmitted over their networks, the Copyright Board of Canada issued a new decision on Friday that addressed the prospect of establishing a royalty on hundreds of thousands of websites ranging from social network giants such as Facebook t

Canadian Parties Practice Politics 1.0 in a Web 2.0 World

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Business increasingly recognizes the need for an Internet strategy that engages current and prospective customers.  The days of "brochure-ware" websites that do little more than describe the company and its products or services are gradually giving way to a more engaged experience that includes corporate blogs, videos, and opportunities for genuine interaction.

Parties' Digital Policy Scorecard Heading Into Election Day

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As the national election campaign launched five weeks ago, I wrote that "the election presents an exceptional opportunity to raise the profile of digital issues."  While the economy unsurprisingly dominated much of the political discourse, each of the national parties unveiled platforms and positions that included some discussion of digital policy.

With Canadians headed to the polls today, this column offers a scorecard on each party's digital policy positions.

ISP Tax May Be The Next Big Culture Funding Fight

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The emergence of cultural funding as a hot-button political issue in the current election campaign appears to have taken virtually everyone by surprise.  The roughly $50 million in cuts may be tiny in terms of the overall federal budget, yet the significant impact on the cultural community has propelled the issue onto the national stage.

Coming to Grips With An Internet That Never Forgets

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Political parties and analysts have been keeping close watch on the role of the Internet throughout the current election campaign.  All parties have beefed up their online presence with countless Facebook groups, YouTube videos, Twitter postings, and specialized websites such as the Conservatives' Notaleader.ca and the Liberals' Scandalpedia.ca.  Supporters of specific issues have also been active, led by the now-infamous Culture in Peril online video on the culture funding cuts that have generated more than a half a million views.

Canada Risks Missing Out on Open Access Momentum

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Last week, Liberal leader Stephane Dion committed to substantial increases to Canada's federal research funding in a major speech on education and research at the University of Western Ontario.  The Liberal promise - which comes on the heels of increased Conservative support for the federal research granting councils in the 2008 budget - reflects a growing all-party emphasis on the link between research support and economic performance.

Public Policy Consultations No Field of Dreams

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Last week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released the results of a public online consultation on new media that will feed into hearings on the issue early next year.  Given that it was a consultation on new media, the Commission established a special website last spring for the month-long consultation and commissioned noted pollster Nik Nanos to serve as moderator and report back on the results.

Digital Issues Deserve a Spot in Election Campaign

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With a federal election now set for October 14th, the coming weeks will be dominated by political debate as each party seeks to make their case to voters across the country. The election mode marks an important role reversal - after months of Canadians working to gain the attention of their elected officials, those same politicians will be knocking on doors, making phone calls, and participating in all-candidates meetings in an effort to seek them out.

PickupPal Controversy Highlights Power of Networked Economy

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PickupPal, a ride sharing service that operates around the world, recently attracted considerable attention after Trentway-Wagar, a Peterborough-based bus company, raised questions about the legality of the service in Ontario. PickupPal has about 100,000 registered users worldwide (approximately 10,000 in Ontario alone) who use the Internet service to connect and identify possible ride sharing partners.  The result is more carpools, less traffic congestion, and decreased emissions.

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